STANFORD -- Chiney Ogwumike suggested she wanted to be marginalized by a complete team performance. She wanted her Stanford teammates to maximize their play to a level that would diminish her presence.
She got her wish in Tuesday's 74-65 win over North Carolina, sending No. 2-seeded Stanford to the Final Four. Well, kind of.
"I like to be an afterthought sometimes," Ogwumike said. "I think (Tuesday night) I was an afterthought a little bit, which is good because other people were being aggressive."
But the depth of Stanford wasn't the only thing on display. It wasn't just that guards Amber Orrange and Lili Thompson, forwards Mikaela Ruef and Bonnie Samuelson also scored in double figures. It was the dimension they brought to the game: tempo.
The Cardinal is known for its methodic approach. Boasting one of the best post players in the nation, Stanford loves dumping the ball down low and pounding opponents into submission.
North Carolina is the opposite. It speeds up the pace. It shoots quickly, is aggressive defensively and wants to get in the open court. And slowing it up wasn't working.
Stanford's patient, half-court offense was rest for the Tar Heels, at least for the guards. The North Carolina inside players were hanging on Ogwumike like tree ornaments.
"You've got to be physical with her," said associate head coach Andrew Calder, filing in for legendary coach Sylvia Hatchell, who is in remission from a battle with leukemia.
"She is too athletic. She is not as good the further away you push her out. She's outstanding down low. Outstanding."
North Carolina did as good a job as any bottling up Ogwumike. But the game changed when she got her wish, and the supporting cast took the lead.
Orrange started using that smooth ballhandling and calming poise to go at the pesky Carolina defense. She started looking for her shot, knocking down her midrange jumper.
She almost single-handedly kept Stanford in the game after it got into a 13-point hole early.
"Even though we were down, she was playing so well," Thompson said. "She's our point guard. We're going to follow her. She kind of kept us in it until everyone got going."
Then, instead of forcing the ball into Ogwumike, Ruef and Samuelson started taking those open 3s North Carolina begged them to hoist. They made 6 of 12 combined, sending North Carolina's defense into a tizzy of confusion.
On the defensive end, Thompson matched the intensity and peskiness of the Tar Heels formidable guard crop. She forced Diamond DeShields, the best freshman in the country, to rush her shots and settle for difficult jumpers. DeShields -- daughter of longtime major leaguer Delino DeShields -- missed 10 of her 15 shots.
Orrange was also aggressive on the perimeter. Alisha Gray, DeShields' sharpshooting backcourt mate, was 2 of 5 in the second half after not even touching the rim en route to 15 first-half points.
Midway through the second half, the pace, the floor spacing and the aggressiveness favored Stanford. The Cardinal turned an eight-point deficit early in the second half into a six-point advantage. And it did it by making Ogwumike kind of an afterthought and going right back at the Tar Heels.
Eventually, Ogwumike became a forethought. She's too good to stay in the background. She scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the second half. After Stanford lost the lead with inside of four minutes left, she came up with a clutch block and a layup as the Cardinal reclaimed the lead.
Fittingly, the night was capped with Orrange getting to the basket off the dribble and dropping in a layup with the foul. Ogwumike fell to her knees at her teammates' feet in celebration. Just as you'd expect from an afterthought.
Contact Marcus Thompson at email@example.com.